The Golden State Warriors were fortunate to put up 104 points against a tough Los Angeles Clippers squad on the road (37-23) last Saturday, playing without starters Stephen Curry and David Lee (injured) and using three rookies in the starting lineup (Jeremy Wright, Klay Thompson and Charles Jenkins).
The Dubs were able to keep the game entertainingly close for the majority of the game, but ultimately did what they needed to do—lose the ballgame 112-104.
It was Golden State’s fourth straight defeat, and kept the team from straying too far away from the league’s seven worst records. The Warriors (22-37) are now sitting with the ninth-worst record, a smidge ahead of the Detroit Pistons (22-38), the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors
(both at 22-39). If the Dubs can keep up (or down) their losing ways, they can hopefully fall into the bottom seven, which would secure the team’s lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft. If, however, they end the season where they are right now—outside of the bottom seven—their draft pick will be shipped as compensation for a previous trade, to the Utah Jazz.
Warriors fans are anxiously espying the nightly NBA scoreboard to see if either Golden State loses or if Detroit, New Jersey and Toronto win. A preferred scenario would be if all three teams win while the Warriors lose. This way, Golden State will be able to keep their lottery pick, a complimentary bonus to the team’s otherwise pathetic season.
In the latest installment of Warriors Tank Watch, the Dubs decided prior to Saturday’s contest against the Clips that Lee, Golden State’s starting power forward, would miss the team’s remaining eight games as a result of nagging groin and hip pains he has been suffering for the past few weeks.
As a precaution, with nothing left to play for—other than losing—the Warriors decided to shut Lee down in order to make sure he didn’t further do damage to his groin, which could have led to potential surgery down the line.
Though Lee noted that he could have played through the pain, it’s best for the team in the long run that he rest and recover.
Additionally, the short-term goal of losing the rest of the games on their schedule is aided by Lee’s injury, as he was clearly the Dubs’ best player throughout the season, posting team-high averages of 20.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
With Curry nursing his own season-long injury and the trade of former shooting guard Monta Ellis to Milwaukee, Lee was now the Warriors’ centerpiece, and he had become the primary focus in the team’s offense, putting up a career-high 16.2 shot attempts per game. Lee averaged 22.05 points in the 20 games since Ellis was traded to the Bucks.
As Golden State’s big man on campus, Lee muscled Golden State to four victories in those 20 games.
Though considerably admirable, Lee’s warrior efforts helped propel the Dubs out of the NBA’s bottom seven, which could prove detrimental toward the team’s lottery status come June. His yeoman-like work would ordinarily be extremely appreciated by fans, but his dedication and veteran leadership were in actuality preventing the Dubs from finishing with a bottom-seven record.
However, now, without Lee in the lineup, the Warriors are almost certain to finish the 2011-2012 campaign with a lot more losses.
Saturday’s contest was just a glimpse of what is yet to come for the Warriors, who are now even more likely to lose the rest of the games on their schedule now that Lee is no longer healthy enough to contribute.
Though the team will not admit to folding the rest of the way, Warriors Tank Watch is approaching a high point—or low point. With Lee, Curry and Ellis no longer playing for the team, Golden State is without its top three scorers, missing a combined 56.7 points per game.
In Saturday’s game against the Clippers, the Warriors put up a valiant effort. Four players—Dorell Wright, Klay Thompson, Nate Robinson and Brandon Rush—each scored over 20 points. Without any meat in the middle of the paint, Los Angeles was able to take advantage up front, shooting 54.3 percent from the field and drawing more fouls, leading to nine more free-throw attempts.
In the end, the Clips were just too good to defeat.
With the end of the season so close, the Warriors are in one of those modes where they simply are playing games because they are on the schedule.
But it’s imperative that Golden State stays hungry, understanding that their starvation will lead to emaciated performances down the stretch. Losses are important to them. They need to lose games—one by one—in order to contend next season.
Having Lee sit out the rest of the season will help that cause, almost guaranteeing that the team will lose their remaining seven games.
Golden State plays the San Antonio Spurs tonight, and then face the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets—all teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended now. The only potentially winnable games are at the Minnesota Timberwolves and then against the New Orleans Hornets in Oakland.
But without David Lee, it’s more and more possible that the Warriors could lose those two as well. We'll see.
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